Big Money. College Athletes and the N.C.A.A.: A Timeline

The proposed $2.8 billion settlement announced last week between the N.C.A.A. and athletes in a class-action lawsuit would, if approved by a judge, allow schools to pay students directly for playing sports for the first time.

But it is only the latest chapter in the history of college sports involving wealth, the pursuit of elite talent and the issue of who gets to cash in. For more than a century, the question of how athletics fits into higher education has persisted, becoming more complicated as college sports have morphed into a multibillion-dollar business that serves as the public face of universities.

Here’s a look at what has changed over the years, and what hasn’t.

March 31, 1906

The N.C.A.A., then known as the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, is created. Part of its mission is to protect young athletes, amid an outcry over the number of deaths and injuries in football. Among the problems cited by the N.C.A.A.: “At the college level, hired players not enrolled in school often filled out rosters.”

March 1939

The N.C.A.A. holds a men’s basketball tournament organized by the National Association of Basketball Coaches in an effort to compete with the National Invitation Tournament, a prestigious tournament run by another group. The new event, with eight teams, results in a net loss of $2,531. The next year, it makes a reported profit of about $9,500.

Jan. 10, 1948

The N.C.A.A. formally adopts principles of conduct known as the sanity code, strictly limiting financial assistance for athletes. The measures include a ban on scholarships in which athletic ability is the major factor. In calling on member schools to abide by the rules, the N.C.A.A. transitions from an advisory body to an organization with regulatory power.

Jan. 12, 1951

After criticism about loopholes and schools not following the rules, the N.C.A.A. drops the sanity code, returning control over athletes’ aid to conferences and individual schools.

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